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Meet Me at the Albany
Meet Me at the Albany (MMatA) is a creative arts club for the over 60s based at the
Albany Arts Centre in South East London. MMatA meets every week on a Tuesday,
and offers a year round programme of a diverse range of activities, from poetry to
music, sculpture to circus skills.
Launched in autumn 2013, MMatA is supported by Lewisham Council’s Community
Directorate. The intention is to enable isolated older people to become involved in
creative workshops, experience performances from leading artists and provide a
social and vibrant atmosphere for participants to enjoy.
Coproduction is at the heart of MMatA. The project is co-created by two
organisations: the Albany (a performing arts venue and creative centre in Deptford)
and Entelechy Arts (a participatory arts company), which David Slater, director of
Entelechy Arts feels generates a sense of shared ownership and perspective key to
the collaborative feel of the project. The model is one in which emerging older artists
are supported to become co-producers alongside established artists and isolated
older people, with the diverse range of art forms on offer ensuring there’s something
Participants have gone on to support the development of performances and projects
that go beyond the MMatA group; for example, one group of participants worked
alongside older peer mentors to develop a nomadic performance art piece ‘Bed’,
which explores the role of visibility and loneliness in the lives of older people. ‘Bed’
has been performed around the streets of Deptford and will be taken to the 2016
Brighton festival. Another group have begun working with the Community Team at
the Southbank Centre, to assist with their work with isolated older people in the area.
They used performances of their poems to broaden the Southbank team’s
understanding of the needs and aspirations of their often marginalised peers. As
such, MMatA has become a catalyst for enabling older people to realise their
potential and become recognised and valued players within their own communities,
creating different possibilities of what it might mean to grow old in our society.
MMatMA has a close relationship with the local authority in Lewisham. MMatA is
supported by the council’s Communities that Care Investment Fund, which was
designed to support voluntary sector organisations to address challenges such as
social isolation, increasing frailty, declining mental health and the ability to access
services and programmes faced by many older people. The relationship with the
authority has been cultivated over a number of years, and dates back to Lewisham
Council’s strong emphasis on grant-giving to arts and cultural organisations in the
area. This has translated into a diverse arts and culture landscape in the area, with a
high concentration of arts council National Portfolio organisations and an enthusiasm
for the work of arts and cultural organisations with the authority.
The outcomes of the project are currently measured largely through quantitative data
(numbers of participants and numbers of sessions) but work is being undertaken to
explore more qualitative methods of measuring MMatA’s impact.
In addition to the collection of quantitative data the outcomes of the project have
been measured using standardised questionnaires such as the Quality of Life
questionnaire, the Duke Social Support Index, Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being
scale and the Geriatric Depression Scale.